Castell Bryn Amlwyg: a ringwork and enclosure castle
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1020148
Date first listed: 17-Oct-1930
Date of most recent amendment: 18-Sep-2001
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: SO 16743 84601
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late
Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended
area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a
substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a
stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the
bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military
operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements.
They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60
with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted
range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular
significance to our understanding of the period.
An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers bounding the site. Where a keep was built within the enclosure it was not usually significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide accommodation. The first enclosure castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were built as late as the 14th century. Enclosure castles are widely dispered throughout England with a strong concentration along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward I. Despite some damage from modern stone quarrying, Castell Bryn Amlwyg is a good example of a ringwork, which has been subsequently used to form an enclosure castle. The archaeological excavation here has demonstrated the nature and extent of the structural remains and the associated buried deposits, and has provided information about the sequence of construction of the enclosure castle. The association of a ringwork with an enclosure castle provides important evidence about the development of military architecture in the Welsh marches from the late 11th century to the 13th century. The structural remains existing here, together with the associated artefacts and organic remains surviving in the interior and within the ditch, will provide valuable evidence about the activities and lifestyles of those who inhabited the site. In addition, organic remains preserved in the buried ground surfaces beneath the inner and outer ramparts will provide information about the local environment and the use of the land prior to the construction of the ringwork. The monument remains a prominent feature within the landscape and as such provides a tangible reminder of the military and strategic importance of this area in the Middle Ages.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a ringwork and an
enclosure castle. Traditionally known as Castell Bryn Amlwyg (castle on a
prominent hill), it is situated at the south western end, and on the highest
point, of a ridge overlooking the Nant Rhuddwr valley. It was strategically
placed at the western extremity of the Marcher lordship of Clun, established
in 1070. The castle lies just over 2km to the south of the Kerry Ridgeway, a
long-established routeway which linked the medieval castle towns of Bishop's
Castle and Clun, and which ran westwards into the heart of Wales.
The elevated ground on which the castle sits has been adapted in order to form
the ringwork, which is oval in plan with overall dimensions of 88m east to
west by 104m south west to north east. The oval-shaped internal mound, which
measures approximately 30m by 48m across the top, is bounded by a steep-sided
rock-cut ditch. The ditch is surrounded by a steep-sided rampart between 10m
and 15m wide, which has been partly formed by deliberately accentuating the
natural fall at the end of the ridge. To the north east, the rampart is set
further away from the mound thereby increasing the width of the ditch. This
part of the defensive circuit has been modified by stone quarrying in the 19th
and 20th centuries. A deep cut has been made through the bank, part of the
ditch has been cut away and quarry spoil has been dumped over the outer
defences to the north. Next to the outer side of the north eastern part of the
rampart there are additional quarry hollows and spoil heaps, which are not
included in the scheduling. To the north, corresponding with the gently rising
spine of the ridge, is a break through the rampart, about 3.5m wide, which
appears to mark the position of the original entrance passage to the interior
of the castle. The positions of structures within the interior are marked by
embanked wall footings, piles of collapsed masonry and level building
platforms. A mass of collapsed stonework also lies within the ditch,
particularly to the south and the north west.
In 1963 a small-scale archaeological excavation was conducted in order to
provide information about the structural history of the site. From this
investigation it would appear that originally the interior of the ringwork had
been defined by an inner rampart and that the contemporary structures were
built of wood. At a later date a stone round tower or keep was built at the
southern end of the interior of the ringwork. It measured about 6m in diameter
internally, with a wall roughly 2.5m thick. A stone curtain wall, about 2m
wide, was then constructed around the interior, abutting the tower and cutting
into the remains of the earlier inner rampart. A D-shaped stone tower was
added to eastern and western sides of the curtain wall, and a twin D-shaped
towered gateway, also of stone, was constructed at the northern end of the
interior. Following a major structural collapse, the gateway was rebuilt to
form an enlarged gatehouse, and the adjoining part of the curtain wall to the
west was also strengthened. A quantity of iron nails and animal bones,
together with an iron arrowhead, was found in a deposit predating the curtain
wall, and within the round tower large burnt timbers were discovered.
It is considered that the ringwork was built in the late 11th or the early
12th century and would have been vital in securing the lordship boundary. The
subsequent stone-built enclosure castle, comprising the round tower, curtain
wall, D-shaped side and gate towers, is believed to have been built in the
13th century, during which time it served as a border outpost for the
lordship. The rebuilding of the gateway and an adjoining portion of the
curtain wall, probably in the later 13th century, emphasises the castle's
continuing role as an important border fortification at this time.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 33849
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Alcock, L et al, 'The Montgomeryshire Collections. Journal of the Powysland Club' in Excavations at Castell Bryn Amlwg, , Vol. 60, (1968), 8-27
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing